Ian Burrell: Max Mosley takes his crusade against invasion of privacy to France

Viewpoint: Only 3,000 copies of the edition of the News of the World in question were distributed in France and just 1,500 of those were sold

Share
Related Topics

We face the prospect tomorrow of a newspaper which no longer exists being responsible for damages in a country where it was not printed and where they speak a different language to the one in which the article complained of was published. Not only that, the award could be higher than that given when the same matter was considered in a British court in 2008.

Max Mosley's legal battle with Rupert Murdoch's News Group Newspapers over the News of the World's publication of intimate details of his participation in a sado-masochistic orgy has been extraordinary in many ways. Quite apart from the revelations themselves, Mosley broke a record for privacy damages when the High Court awarded him £60,000. After that verdict, the paper's editor Colin Myler stood outside the court and claimed: "Our press is less free today."

But Max wasn't done. Far from being shy about the exposure of his sexual shenanigans, Mosley went out on the public speaking circuit, entertaining crowds with his conjecture on the sex lives of prominent editors. He took his case to the European Court of Justice in a failed attempt to compel journalists to reveal their stories to their subjects prior to publication.

And still he was not done. Having been president of the Paris-headquartered Federation International de l'Automobile at the time of the Sunday tabloids lurid revelations, Mosley who studied law at Gray's Inn and is a qualified barrister, realised he had a right to sue Murdoch's company in France as well. On Tuesday, the Palais de Justice will return its verdict – probably in Mosley's favour.

So far the court has heard the News of the World described as "gutter press" (Mosley's lawyer) and as one of the "guard dogs of British democracy" (News Group's lawyer). Mosley is thought to be seeking €100,000 from both the publisher and the reporter Neville Thurlbeck, who has been charged with violating privacy laws and faces a maximum punishment of a year in prison and a £45,000 fine. "I guess it would be the icing on the cake if he could get a criminal conviction," says Nick King, a reputation management specialist at Sheridans.

The orgy privacy case has unfolded in parallel with the phone-hacking scandal, which caused the paper's closure in July. Thurlbeck, who has not attended the French hearing, is one of the former members of the News of the World staff arrested in the police inquiry.

What will the French court decide? "I would be surprised if he gets big damages, I would expect them to take into account the award in the UK," says Rod Dadak, a defamation specialist at Lewis Silkin, who expects Mosley to win his case. But even if the former Formula 1 boss fails to obtain a major award, he will have succeeded in raising awareness of the possibility of bringing a privacy action in France. "It will encourage other people to see that as a route to get back at the newspaper or publication in question," says Robin Shaw of Davenport Lyons.

 

Only 3,000 copies of the edition of the News of the World in question were distributed in France and just 1,500 of those were sold. Padraig Reidy, of the freedom of speech group Index on Censorship, suspects Mosley's motives. "While he may feel aggrieved, it seems he is trying to establish a rule that no newspaper in Europe should be allowed to report on the private lives of public figures."

In another development two weeks ago, litigants were given another stick with which to beat the British press when the European Court of Justice gave actor Olivier Martinez, the right to sue the Sunday Mirror in the French courts over an article published on the Internet about his relationship with Kylie Minogue.

Tomorrow it is Max Mosley who has the whip hand over his former tabloids tormentors.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

How I’ve backed the winner in every election since 1959

Andreas Whittam Smith
Chelsea players celebrate winning the Premier League title  

Success isn’t enough if you’re going to be boring

Simon Kelner
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power